Zenta Tanaka – SHIFT Q&A City Insider

Often moments and objects of the everyday get overlooked in a world that focuses on the new. These are the moments that architect and designer Zenta Tanaka celebrates. His practice is one that is rooted in the idea of slowness and time, embracing and enhancing everything of your daily life – design for life. Zenta has worked on various projects with companies such as Birkenstock and Aesop as well as creating his own select shop and café – with his wife Megumi – called CIBI. We join for a discussion about his design influences and the projects that he is currently working on.

Hi Zenta, thanks for your time. Can you tell me a little bit more about yourself?

I am an open-minded, friendly father and whenever I go to day care to pick up my son, all the other kids surround me. I love entertaining and meeting people to get inspired! I love objects, furniture, toys, eclectic collections and dogs. I take inspiration from the world around me to do some creative design work – creating objects, space and special moments in life.

So has architecture and design always played a part in your life? You studied architecture in Australia and Germany and subsequently practiced for a few years in Japan?

Yes, a big part. Good design just makes you smile. It’s made my life more thoughtful and colourful, whether its clothes, furniture, objects, a notebook or a pen. I always take time to look at the things that surround me, taking moments to think and enjoy each object. I remember reading a little book on design by Shigeo Fukuda: a great Japanese graphic designer when I was little and it really opened my eyes and gave me a sense of being. Looking at the images and reading his thoughts about the role which design plays in life really resonated with me.

Studying in Europe was also an eye-opener. A varied group of people studied architecture with me in Germany, people from all around Europe – people in different age groups. Their approach to learning, detail and the process of designing and building was profoundly thought through after continuous discussion. They always talked about design – it was inherently part of who they were.

Can you tell me a little more about your approach to design? It feels to me that there is a focus on slowness, authenticity, the everyday and sentimental minute details?
My approach to design is really about what I want to achieve, which is touching people’s feelings and everyday experiences. These are the moments that people can cherish for a long time and I endeavour to create objects and spaces that allow people to enjoy these experiences.

This is essentially what I think of when I design and the notion that ultimately life through design makes it much more fun.

How has it been for you professionally to collaborate with companies like Aesop and Birkenstock? You recently designed Aesop’s Bondi Beach store and also are in the process of designing the Birkenstock store in their new head offices in Melbourne…

Aesop, an amazing company and brand which I was a big fan of without knowing their total philosophy, concept and their thoughtful care towards customers. They embraced my approach to design and inspired myself to be a part of their retail experience. For example something that is done in an Aesop store is the simple gesture of washing hands thoughtfully, which I feel provides an added layer to the quality of life.

Birkenstock has a profound heritage and philosophy in their products, they are showing me how to appreciate their fundamental message that product should be thoughtful and always of quality. They have been kind enough to give me an opportunity to cherish their products and showcase how beautiful they are in a flagship store which I am designing for them in Melbourne.

When you started CIBI in an old warehouse in Collingwood Melbourne before, was it always your intention to juxtapose a beautiful select shop with a café?

Yes, our concept essentially revolves around life! Three elements: good design, a sense of style and food made with love are the elements that enable us live life to the fullest.

We always wanted to showcase beautiful products designed by many great designers both contemporary and historical – for example Sori Yanagi whose products are timeless. This is the same sensibility that we wish for people to embrace in their life and their home.

What do you love most about Melbourne – living and working in this city? Any favourite places that you visit week in week out?

People – wonderful people who are inspiring that enjoy and appreciate what we do. We usually gravitate towards people that have a sense of balance. We also love to support our friends that we’ve made through food and the food industry – restaurants like Anada, Supermaxi, The Aylesbury and Marios are all great institutions (new and old) in Melbourne where people can linger and take pleasure from each other’s company. We really love spaces that feel like a second home.

I also love many of Melbourne gardens in particular Edinburgh Gardens where I regularly have picnics and enjoy the sunshine. If I have any remaining spare time, I scour Melbourne’s various vintage warehouses and junkyards searching for anything from timber, old taps and metalwork.

Address: 45 Keele Street, Collingwood, Melbourne
Opening Hours: 8:00-16:00 (Saturday and Sunday from 9:00)
Tel: +61 3 9077 3941

Copyright Leon Goh & SHIFT 2012


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